Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Glorious Urfa

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 11th June, 2011

Şanlıurfa or “Glorious Urfa” received its honorific title in recognition of the city´s resistance to French occupation between the end of the Fırst World War and 1920, as the modern state of Turkey started to take shape.  Not far from the border with Syria (across which some refugees have been escaping in recent weeks) Urfa has a large Arab population, many Kurds and other minorities, as well as ethnic Turks. But it is not just for that multiculturalism that Urfa is more evocative of the old Ottoman Empire than most places in Turkey. İt has a beautifully preserved and often tastefully renovated historic quarter in a valley of gardens and mosques, as well as an impressive hillside in which Abraham´s cave is located. The whole place is redolent of the traditions and legends of the three Abrahamic Religions of the Book and pilgrims in their thousands, along with local families, flock to the banks of a long pool in which even more thousands of greedy, sacred carp vie for their offerings. Yesterday there was a large group of Iranians there, the women clad ın black chadors, giggling and joking in Farsi as the fish thrashed and fought over the titbits sold by park vendors. Against that rather idyllic backdrop İ was interviewed on film about the relationship between the Arab Spring and Turkey´s ongoıng political reform process, which is something İ will write about at greater length elsewhere. Urfa people are famous for their piety, in comparison with many more secular Turks and it was interestıng that there was hardly any election atmosphere in the cıty, although pollıng is tomorrow. That is in sharp contrast to the Kurdish heartland city of Diyarbakır, where İ am now staying and where feelings in some districts are electric.

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